Published January 11. 2012 4:00AM
Another winter night on Tuesday, another UConn women's game on Connecticut Public Television. Bob and Meghan. Harriet, Mary, Lee, Larry and the others in studio during timeouts. Folksy, homey, comfortable. Almost rhythmic. It's been this way now for 16 years. UConn and CPTV belong together and complement each other like the stars and stripes.
Now for the news flash: There is no guarantee CPTV will broadcast the women's games next season.
Spies on campus say negotiations are ongoing among UConn and three outlets for rights to the games next season: CPTV, SportsNet New York (SNY) and WTIC (Fox 61) in Hartford. According to people familiar with the details, CPTV made its presentation last week and "was very impressive." Fox 61 and SNY get their at bats later this week.
CPTV folks are antsy. This is their flagship product. This is what they do. And now it may be taken from them.
I'm not sure CPTV has the financial resources to compete with, say, SNY. But let me just say this: The UConn women on SNY would be nothing more than additional programming. Fox 61 is unproven and an unknown. But the UConn women on CPTV would be a network's passion.
CPTV's foray into women's basketball has been the biggest reason the program has exploded, other than the idea that the Huskies are usually a surer bet than Mariano Rivera. What was once a phenomenon only seen at Gampel Pavilion became a statewide experience. The women and CPTV have become synonymous.
And that needs to count here. It needs to count more than anything. See, I'm a big loyalty guy. And now that a corporate monolith has come calling, UConn better remember its roots here. You never forget where you come from.
I understand that money's money and there's only one Mother Theresa. But it's not like CPTV's package is full of nickels and dimes.
Still, I worry. I like the folks at CPTV. I've gotten to know Harriet Unger, the executive producer for national programming and UConn basketball, quite well. An absolute sweetheart. Even better: A sweetheart with an unyielding passion for the UConn women and making the product better. Which she has. She knows the program to its core. My guess is that comparatively speaking, the SNY folks might think "Swin Cash" is a method of payment, not one of the all-time greats.
What evidence out there suggests that SNY's broadcasts of the women wouldn't be as detached as its broadcasts of the UConn men? SNY, in an effort to show many Big East games, offers some nondescript host talking to some non-UConn analyst. This year it's former St. John's guard Tarik Turner. A St. John's guy getting paid to dissect UConn games. That's like YES hiring Keith Hernandez.
And so how would we know the women's games wouldn't be as flavorless? The women's program has the most maternal and paternal fans in sports. They don't need anyone breaking down the vagaries of a 2-2-1 trap. They need a personal touch with a familiar face. CPTV figured this out long ago.
I have no idea where this is headed. Or where UConn is headed. When a penny-pinching state blithely accepts a $90,000 price tag for a search firm directed to find a new athletic director - when the current one has done just fine - I throw up my hands and holler "uncle." I'm not sure who's making this decision. Or if there's someone in the background pulling the strings.
All I know is that this is still our state, our university. And we've grown up with the UConn women on CPTV. The women are important to CPTV's future. CPTV has done right by UConn. CPTV is home. It's where the UConn women belong.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.